It happens all the time, we select our team leaders for the season, and everything starts off great. We feel confident in the seniors of our program to step up and be the leaders we need. And then… sometimes they fall short. The qualities that give us faith in them as leaders in the first place aren’t showing up in rehearsals anymore. The team’s commitment level is wavering, and our leaders aren’t stepping up. It’s so frustrating as a coach and it can feel defeating. Sometimes I feel like it’s easier to just be the coach and the captains for a while and maybe next year will be better… but you don’t have to go that far.
If your leaders aren’t showing up and fulfilling their duties, here are some steps you can take to salvage the situation and teach your leaders how to be the positive role model you know they can be.
Step 1: Evaluate why they aren’t leading
The first step is to try to understand why your leader isn’t fulfilling their role. Especially during a pandemic, maybe something else is going on that has changed their ability to lead. Make sure you stop and check in on their mental health right now and determine if they can handle the extra leadership role. Pandemic or not, sometimes life gets unexpectedly challenging and maybe they are no longer in a good place to be the leader you need them to be. Before you give up on them, take a send to stop and check-in to make sure they can still be a good role model.
Have they given up on everything in life, or just the team?
Try to determine if they’ve given up on everything or just your team. That can help you understand if it’s a dance issue or a life issue. Are they struggling with motivation in school too? Are they not as engaged with their friends as they usually are? These may be signs that there is something bigger going on and they aren’t in a good place to be your leader right now. Acknowledge that, talk about it, and determine if maybe now isn’t the time for them to hold a leadership role.
On the other hand, if they are still ready to be a leader, ask them what they view as their role on the team. Sometimes leaders shy away from stepping into their role because they don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe another leader has a stronger presence, or the leader you’re worried about is a junior and doesn’t feel like they can lead with the seniors in the same way. If they aren’t showing up how you expect, maybe they don’t understand how they fit into the leadership team. Talk to them about your expectations and specifically how their talents can serve the team. Everyone leads differently and if you help your dancers understand what it is about them that makes them a good leader, you can help them step into the leadership role for your program.
Step 2: Have an honest conversation, Coach to Team Leaders
Ask before you complain. Schedule a time to talk with your dance and ask them what’s going on in their life right now, how they are feeling in general, and genuinely listen to their response. During this conversation, you can then share your feelings, not blaming your leaders but use I statements like, “I feel like you don’t want to lead anymore,” or “I feel like you’re not holding up your promise to lead.” Be honest and explicit about where they are falling short and what your expectations are for their role. Then find out what your leader wants. Do they want to step into this role or not? Are they ready to commit to this role and its expectations or not?
If you truly listen, and they aren’t actually ready, that’s ok. Accept that, validate the importance of honesty and let it be. It’s much better to have a leader who can’t fulfill the role step down than continue as a leader without actually doing the job. That said, if they are committed to stepping into the role again, set clear action steps for the next two weeks. What exactly do you want to see from this leader to demonstrate their commitment? Set up a clear plan with a meeting date two weeks later to reassess. That gives them a chance to make a change and be the leader you hoped for. But if they can’t turn it around, it gives you clear evidence of their lack of leadership duties and support if you need to ask them to step down.
Honest conversations are hard…
…But part of our role as a coach is to be a model for how to have those conversations with your team leaders. It’s about personal growth and teaching our dancers to have honest self-reflection. If your team leaders aren’t stepping up, don’t give up on them right away or sit in silent frustration. Use this as a teaching moment. If we can teach our dancers what it means to have an honest self-reflection when things are going well, and then make a plan for how to turn it around, you are giving them one of the greatest life lessons that will carry with them long after they graduate from your team.